October 14, 2010

Part Three: Surgery

I cannot honestly remember how long it was before they removed the tumor, but they did, along with the surrounding bone. I remember waking up in the ICU thinking that I was watching Tom and Jerry cartoons on the television. Funny thing though, there wasn't a television in the room. I would see it, and then just see some cabinets. Every once and a while a nurse would come in to see how I was doing, or because I was pushing the call button thinking it was a remote for the non-existant television.

My little sister, who was around 7 at the time, was too young to come onto the unit. But one of the nurses was nice enough to let her stand at the door to see if I was okay. "Michael" she said in her softest, worried voice. I remember hearing, but not responding. She was worried about her big brother. Years later I would do the same thing to her after she had open heart surgery. Although, I made the silly mistake of asking how she was while she had a trachea tube. The more she tried to answer, the worse I felt, because she couldn't and she was choking. Lesson learned.

Ice chips were all I could eat. I'm not sure how long I was in the ICU. They removed several drains from the inside of my head, and I was ready to be moved up to the third floor, which then, was the pediatric unit. My Mom and Dad would come, trying not to look scared or sad. The incision was about 8-10 inches on the top of my head, and the doctor had instructed my family not to react to the sight, and they were told that the swelling would go down. They did not want to scare me. After a couple of days, my Mom was taking me in a wheelchair to the playroom. I caught a glimpse of my head and it looked as horrific as I could imagine. The incision actually looked like someone had embedded an axe in my skull and removed it. Of course, after a few weeks, the swelling did go down. Through the course of my stay, many people would come to visit. From family to Friends, to Friends from school who I didn't know I had. My room was filled with so many flowers, cards and gifts that it didn't really feel like a hospital room. My grandparents Johnson would come to visit and bring me Legos, and sit and watch television with me or read a book. My grandparents Keehn would come from the city and my grandpa would watch the Cubs game.

But they all knew that the tumor was malignant, and that their little boy had cancer.

Biopsies of the tumor were sent to several different clinics for evaluation. All came back with the same results, Ewing's Sarcoma. Which is a bone tumor which usually occurs in the long bones of male teens. But the tumor was at the parietal bone of the skull which, as of 1998, only 17 cases of cranial ewing's sarcoma had been reported. Although, these were facts that I did not know as a child. It was only when I was in my late teens that I found all the documents and read through them to find out I had a exceedingly rare cancer, with a survival rate of only 20%.